July 1, 2013 by Dr. G
July 1st marks the beginning of a new journey for me, one I have not yet taken advantage of – it is called “the sabbatical.” I’ve seen many puzzled looks from students about this, especially when they ask me what I’m teaching next year, and my response is, “I’m not – I’ll be on sabbatical.”
So, what is a sabbatical? Here is the Penn State definition: “Sabbatical Leave provides a leave of absence with pay for purposes of intensive study or research to increase future contribution to the University. A sabbatical is a privilege which may be granted to individuals who have demonstrated by publication, teaching, exhibition or performance an above average ability in scholarship, research, or other creative accomplishment.” Tenured faculty are allowed to apply for a sabbatical every six years, and the sabbatical can be for one semester or one year. The sabbatical relieves the faculty member of classroom teaching and campus/university service, so that full time and attention can be devoted to research.
I have just finished my 12th year at Penn State Brandywine (the campus was named Penn State Delaware County when I first started!), and I have not yet taken advantage of a sabbatical opportunity. I decided the timing was right for me to apply for a sabbatical, as I have many research projects on my plate and many more opportunities I want to pursue that are challenging to accomplish when I am in the classroom teaching.
Applying for a sabbatical was not an easy decision. The part I enjoy most about my job is the classroom teaching and mentoring undergraduate students, and now, I won’t be teaching or interacting with students for an entire year. I am so used to the academic calendar, that now, the only calendar I have is one that I set for myself.
What will I be doing during my sabbatical? My main project will be creating a set of what I call GEO-Logic problems (here is one I have created, as an example). I had designed a series of these grid-format logic problems back before I came to Penn State, and I want to develop a new set of them to use with my students and to also make available to the middle and high school teachers I work with. There are so many subjects I would like to make GEO-Logic problems for – water issues, sustainability… my challenge is blocking off the time to create the problems. I know from my past experience that I need large blocks of uninterrupted time to create these problems, and having the time off from teaching and service will give me that time.
I will also be spending much time devoted to a National Science Foundation grant on which I am a co-principal investigator. For our Targeted Math Science Partnership grant, I will be “camping out” in the Penn State Earth and Space Science Partnership (ESSP) office in University Park (1-2 weeks a month) to work with my colleagues to continue to make progress on the grant. I won’t be blogging about all of my visits to UP – but, there will be additional conferences I will be attending (and blogging about!).
To make sure I don’t keep my nose in my laptop computer 24/7, I’m going to spend some time outdoors at Tyler Arboretum. I serve on the Board of Trustees for Tyler, and I’ll be blogging about my visits to the arboretum at the Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler blog. Be sure to check it out!
STUDENTS – I WILL MISS TEACHING YOU THIS YEAR! But not to worry – after I immerse myself in my research for a year, I will be more than ready to jump back in to the classroom with some innovative course designs (maybe even some GEO-Logic problems!).